Local elections: a warning for Erdoğan?

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's AKP remains the strongest force in Turkey after local elections. But it suffered defeats in the major cities. The opposition won in Ankara, Izmir and Antalya and also by a narrow margin in Istanbul. Commentators look at the factors that contributed to the success of the opposition.

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Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

A new generation taking over the reins

Fresh young faces have brought the opposition success, Hürriyet Daily News writes in praise:

“While the CHP was in efforts to introduce new, young and dynamic names, the AKP preferred to use its strongmen who are already severely exhausted. ... Having been raised in a middle-class family from the Black Sea province of Trabzon, which has both a religious and nationalist profile, İmamoğlu does not look like any other elitist social democrat politician. He seems to have a very good opportunity to strengthen his image in the entire Turkey as a new generation politician and to move forward in his career if he can be a successful mayor to Istanbul.”

Club Z (BG) /

The people want normality

Erdoğan was unsuccessful with his aggressive election campaign tactics, Club Z explains:

“Turkish voters have made it clear that they want a normal state that returns to democratic principles and the rule of law, not a state in which all opposition members are insulted as terrorists. The voters have given Erdoğan to understand that they don't approve of his policy of division, provoking tensions and demonising political opponents. Their message was that local elections took place in the country, not a war for the survival of Turkey or a 'war of liberation'.”

Cicero (DE) /

Not a promising signal

It wasn't because of Erdoğan's authoritarian style that voters punished the AKP, journalist Cem Say writes in Cicero:

“This time around voters in the cities gave their votes to the opposition. Not because they prefer it, but because they're losing patience. Food prices went up by 50 percent over the last year. Rents are going through the roof. Companies are going bankrupt. Unemployment is increasing rapidly. The things critics abroad are criticising in horror - namely the dismantling of the constitutional state, the phasing out of the independent media and Erdoğan's ultra-nationalist outbursts - much of the population couldn't care less about. From that perspective, the CHP's local politicians aren't exactly this country's great white hope.”

Kurier (AT) /

Potentially the end of the AKP's dominance

The local elections could be the beginning of the end of the Erdoğan era, Kurier believes:

“Already in the 2017 referendum on the presidential system which gave the head of state sweeping powers, Erdoğan was unable to achieve a majority in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. Local elections in Turkey have always been a good indicator of future political developments. Consequently Sunday's vote could herald the end of the AKP dominance. ... Indeed, the opposition may sense that the wind is changing, but it must not celebrate too soon. Because Erdoğan the fighter will never give up. And time is on his side: no more elections are planned for the next four years. If the economy gets back on its feet in the meantime he could once again come out on top.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Reality hitting back

Populism doesn't prevail in the long run, writes economist Stefano Lepri in La Stampa:

“Disregarding his political track record for a moment, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan successfully steered the Turkish economy for years. Then he started making a series of mistakes. Now that prices have risen by 20 percent and more than a million jobs have been lost in the past twelve months it's understandable that many voters are unhappy. Not all populist formulas are the same. The various political forces that we group together under this heading have come to power for very different reasons. Nevertheless they all have one common denominator: at a certain point their propaganda and the illusions they propagate collide with reality. And reality has a way of hitting back.”

Contributors (RO) /

Erdoğanisation process not in danger

Political scientist Alexandru Damian counters on Contributors that the president has the country firmly under his control:

“The election result is a blow for Erdoğan's AKP, but that's only half the truth. The other half is that the alliance between the AKP and the nationalists of the MHP was able to secure more than 50 percent of all the votes nationwide (44 percent AKP, 7 percent MHP). That's similar to the result in the parliamentary election in 2018. ... Erdoğan still has plenty of leverage. He can step into the background (his discourse after the election was quite conciliatory for an autocrat who saw enemies everywhere in the election campaign) and continue the process of Erdoğanising Turkey unhindered.”

Ethnos (GR) /

Election marathon a successful strategy

Erdoğan's strategy worked out, Ethnos concludes:

“With the local elections a cycle of almost five years of uninterrupted election confrontations has come to an end: the presidential election in 2014, two parliamentary elections in 2015, a referendum on the constitutional reform in 2017 and the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018. The red line through all these votes was their extreme dramatisation. Erdoğan framed them as critical tests for the survival of the country - and his strategy worked.”

Karar (TR) /

The people want a consensus

The Turkish people have voted in favour of moderation and power sharing between the government and the opposition, Karar comments:

“This constellation with one party in the power centre and new governments in a number of centres on the local level will be a litmus test for the presidential system. Here, consensus and a common strategy will be essential. Starting with Erdoğan, from now on all leaders must ensure that the system continues to function despite all the differences. The voters have called for a moderate change of direction.”